Jon Bennett: “The Win at COTA Was the Key To the Championship”

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For the fifth season in a row, CORE autosport were victorious in the Prototype Challenge class of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, and The Checkered Flag recently interviewed drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun.

The pair, assisted by James Gue, Mark Wilkins and Anthony Lazzaro at various points throughout the season, drove the #54 Flex Box/Composite Resources-sponsored ORECA FLM09 to two victories, never finishing outside the top four.

The Checkered Flag: Congratulations on winning your fifth straight PC championship. What does this mean to you?

Jon Bennett: “It is a fantastic achievement for the team and something that I am very proud of personally as a driver. Colin Braun again played a pivotal role in achieving this championship this year.”

Colin Braun: “It is a huge accomplishment for me and CORE autosport. Everyone has worked extremely hard to accomplish this goal and I am proud that the hard work everyone puts in has paid off. Winning year after year really shows the strength and attitude of the team!”

TCF: At what point in the season did you realise you’d be able to defend your championship?

JB: “To be honest, we don’t spend much time thinking about the championship until the last two races of the season. Going into the COTA race, we knew that we had a real shot at the championship but we would need solid results. The win at COTA allowed our team to have an easier objective at Petit. Given the harsh weather, the win at COTA was the key to the championship.”

CB: “We start the beginning of every year with that in mind.  We know that if we properly execute and do our jobs, we have done all we can do. We have a saying at CORE which is ‘constant improvement’ – so with that in mind we just keep our heads down and work!”

CORE's first win of the season was in Canada (Credit: Scott R LePage/LAT Photo USA/IMSA)

CORE’s first win of the season was in Canada (Credit: Scott R LePage/LAT Photo USA/IMSA)

TCF: What were your highlights and low points of the season?

JB: “In racing there are many factors out of your control. The low light of the season had to be losing the Rolex 24 at Daytona after leading for over 23 hours. Racing can be cruel and all of us at CORE understand the risks. The highlight for me was watching Colin wrestle a car with no power steering to the win at COTA.  This win helped set the stage for our championship victory.”

CB: “Low light was getting crashed out of Daytona from the lead with 15 minutes to go. Very frustrating and unfortunate but this is a tough sport and the strongest teams bounce back – which we did.  Highlight was probably winning in COTA for me – it was sort of the ‘knockout’ punch to the win the championship, and winning in my home state was cool!”

TCF: That was such a hectic Petit Le Mans, what was it like driving in those conditions?

JB: “On paper, we had a straightforward goal.  As the silver driver, I had to only finish my 2h30 minimum time in the car to clinch the championship. We agreed that I would start the race and drive until the minimum time had been achieved. This all sounds easy enough, but, simply not crashing the car is harder than you think with the championship on the line and staying clear and be respectful to other competitors at ‘full kill’ mode in heavy rain. I’m glad its over.”

CB: “Crazy! I hate that the conditions were not better where we could actually race, instead of just driving around trying not to crash!”

TCF: Did the stewards make the correct decision to end it early?

JB: “It is not my place to critique our stewards. Our stewards are often forced to make hard decisions all year related to competition. With all decisions, some teams are effected more than others both positively and negatively. I will say that downforce cars create a unique wake in the rain that leaves a fine mist in the air. At night, the driver’s vision would have been challenged. I am of the mindset that this is endurance racing and drivers must adjust their risk management to the match situation, whatever it is.”

CB: “I think they did. Those conditions were very bad and we were starting to get into night time so I am glad no one had to drive in the night.”

The team celebrate their fifth championship since 2011 (Credit: Richard Dole/LAT Photo USA/IMSA)

The team celebrate their fifth championship since 2011 (Credit: Richard Dole/LAT Photo USA/IMSA)

TCF: What do you think will happen to PC in the future? Would you like to see something like LMP3 replacing the ageing ORECAs?

JB: “Hopefully, there will continue to be a prototype class for silver and pro level drivers. The current ORECA PC car is a solid performer with an appropriate seasonal budget. I would welcome a new chassis with similar performance and seasonal budget. At the moment, LMP3 cars have not demonstrated the speed required to fall between the top P class and GTLM.” 

CB: “I have no idea what the future for PC will be.  It is a great class and I really enjoy driving the car.  I really enjoy the Pro-Am nature of the class as well and feel there is a strong need for this type of class in IMSA.”

TCF: Have you got any other plans, moving forward? Are there any other series or classes you’d like to try?

JB: “Personally, racing competitively at Le Mans is an important goal. I would also consider the top Prototype class if the finances made sense. We are always looking for new opportunities at CORE and our eyes are open.  We are not afraid to think big… Formula E, the Indianapolis 500, and Baja 1000 have all crossed our radar.”

CB: “Nothing really. I would love to get back to Le Mans in a winning car – that is a goal for sure. Finishing second in GT2 in 2007 was a highlight but I want to get back there again – with the current driver ranking systems in place it has proven to be a challenge!”

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About author
Jake covers sportscars for The Checkered Flag, mainly Tudor United SportsCar Championship and World Endurance Championship, along with a variety of other series including World Rally Championship.
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